Thursday, July 16, 2009
The Cosmic Genome - Unpublished Selections Explained, Med. IX.08
Meditation IX.08 - The Cosmic Genome - Translated by George Long and rewritten by Russell McNeil
Among the animals which have not reason one life is distributed;1 but among reasonable animals one intelligent soul is distributed:2 just as there is one earth of all things which are of an earthy nature,3 and we see by one light, and breathe one air, all of us that have the faculty of vision and all that have life.4
(1) In modern genetics this "one life" might be expressed as the genome for a particular species. Individuals will differ, but a single genome defines the life form for the animal species.
(2) The humane genome defines the human animal. In Stoicism, reason is an expression of the active principle of nature. There is nothing transcendent in this. Reason is an expression of electrochemical impulses which are ordered and sequenced and controlled by the humane genome. These electrochemical forces and fields pervade the universe and operate on all matter, and are under the aegis of various physical conservation laws (such as conservation of energy). But the ways in which these forces are harnessed and expressed in sentient animals (humans and other life forms in the universe with similar capabilities) reflects an intelligent ordering which mirrors a universal intelligence with analogous capability - but a capability expressed on a cosmic scale. This understanding of nature far exceeds any modern understanding of how or why sentient beings are capable of reason. But the Stoic position on reason is naturalistic. When we reason we are exercising a trait that is unique to sentient life. This trait is not however something purely accidental. It is a mirroring of a latent law of nature (call it the law of intelligence if you wish) that is embedded in nature and activated in life forms when conditions are right or when natural selection allows for its expression. This does not mean that all sentient life will express itself identically. The animal aspect of sentient life would reflect the conditions prevalent throughout the cosmos. It does mean however that the sequencing within the genetic structures in other sentient life forms that express "reason" would be under the control of the same universal law - or "one intelligent soul," a cosmic genome.
(3) The "earthy nature" is passive. All material things in nature and throughout the universe are in a sense the same in that they are all chemical combinations of atoms from the same periodic table.
(4) In universal terms the vision Marcus refers to here is under the guidance of the universal light of reason.
Russell McNeil, PhD, is the author of The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius: Selections Annotated and Explained by Skylight Paths Publishing. The unpublished selections presented in this Blog are provided as supplemental material to the published selections which are annotated and explained in the book. The published selections are referenced in this Blog by page number and section.